Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Legislation & Governance

What to Expect in Colorado’s 2022 Legislative Session

A close-up inside view of gold dome of Colorado State Capitol Building.
Photo credit: SeanXu/Getty Images

When Colorado’s lawmakers convene at the State Capitol on Jan. 12, they’ll begin the 120-day process of proposing, debating, and deciding on bills that could change state law. With only about four months to decide on hundreds of bills, it’s a busy, fast-paced time at the Capitol.

It’s also a busy time for Michael Steppat, Colorado PERA’s Public & Government Affairs Manager. He tracks legislation affecting PERA, maintains relationships with legislators, oversees lobbying, and more.

PERA On The Issues sat down with Steppat to get his perspective on the upcoming legislative session and the issues lawmakers might decide to tackle this year.

Can you explain your role and the work you do on behalf of PERA and its stakeholders?
PERA Public & Government Affairs Manager Michael Steppat
PERA Public & Government Affairs Manager Michael Steppat

The Colorado General Assembly is responsible for many aspects of PERA, including contribution rates and benefit levels, while the Board is responsible for overseeing PERA’s investments and the administration of benefits. PERA staff provide regular updates to the legislature so lawmakers can make informed decisions on issues that affect our members.

I represent PERA at the Capitol. I monitor and report on legislative activity, build and maintain relationships with legislators and other stakeholders, and oversee lobbying efforts. I also serve as the liaison for legislative committee staff.

It’s important that PERA is represented and can provide education to legislators — especially given legislator turnover at the State Capitol because of term limits — on the impact of proposed legislation to PERA’s active members and retirees.

Last year’s legislative session was an unusual one due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Will lawmakers be returning to a more “normal” session this year?

Last year, the General Assembly gaveled in to begin the session in January and then immediately hit “pause” on the session for several months due to COVID-19. We don’t expect the same thing to happen this year — all indications are that lawmakers will convene and begin the session as usual.

We know lawmakers plan to introduce a bill to make up the state’s missed $225M payment to PERA from 2020. What other issues do you anticipate seeing?

It’s possible we’ll see legislation pertaining to working after retirement laws, especially given the pandemic-related shortages of qualified teachers and other staff in rural school districts. There will likely be a fossil fuel divestment-related bill, which was introduced last session as well.  

There are more than five hundred bills introduced every session on a variety of issues, but the bills we can expect to be at the top of most legislators’ to-do lists next year include many of the usual hot topics like the state budget, health care and education.

Our members and retirees often ask if anything is being done about the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO). Is there anything the state legislature can do about those provisions?

The WEP and GPO are two separate provisions in federal law that are specific to Social Security. It would require Congress to pass legislation for there to be any changes to those provisions. Last year, two bills were introduced that would repeal or change the WEP and GPO, but there has been no further action on either from lawmakers in DC. The efforts to drive this change over the past few years have, unfortunately, proved fruitless and the cost of such proposals is often mentioned as the reason. It is important for members and retirees to contact their representative or senator to have their voice heard on federal issues like this one.

Does PERA take a position on proposed legislation?

Yes, the Board of Trustees determines PERA’s legislative agenda and positions on bills in accordance with Board policies.

How can PERA members and retirees stay up-to-date and get involved in the process?

PERA On The Issues is a good place to start — our biweekly newsletter will be up-to-date on any legislation that affects PERA. We also encourage people to follow the Colorado Retirement Action Center on Facebook and sign up for the PERA Ambassadors newsletter here.

In addition, the General Assembly website has lots of great information. You can listen to committee meetings, view calendars, review the status of a bill, and sign up to testify at committee meetings.

Most importantly, we encourage PERA members and retirees to contact their legislators about issues that are important to them.

Comments

  1. Dennis Lima says:

    Hoping any potential fossil fuel divestment bills get shot down again this year. The little social justice warriors in the legislature need to leave our pension alone. They can whine about their pet causes during their own time and on their own dime.

  2. John Paton says:

    Just like any politician and political entity I expect NOTHING!

    • Layne Broned says:

      I stand with John.

    • Star says:

      An in-depth study of the constitution and journals written by our founding fathers reveals legal/constitutional methods of purging our government from reckless politicians who do not represent the people whom they are put in place to protect. How about remembering the phrase “taxation without representation” in the Revolutionary War era and “never again”! Seems like a much more complex and devious sort of monarchy has developed these days as the main populace sinks slowly into poverty, can we say by design. History speaks to what happens next. It does repeat itself. All we have to do is nothing and point our finger at the other guy.

  3. Paul says:

    Sure would like to see PERA work with legislature to replace the “Annual Increase” with a true Cost Of Living Adjustment tied to a formula that uses economic indicators generally accepted as indicative of changes in the cost of living.

    • Patty Ayala says:

      Right? The cost of living is gone up over 7% and Medicare went up over 14.8% and why do we get 1.5

      • Marti S says:

        Sadly, I think we’re only getting 1% this year–it’s going down from last year’s 1.25% if I understand correctly. Definitely need to quit expecting retirees to have this burden on our backs–the group least able to afford it, and the ones who worked all the years expecting to receive what we were promised while working.

    • Janine Christensen says:

      I agree. This really needs to be addressed.

  4. Jim Lipscomb says:

    Restoring the 2020 state general fund payment to PERA is an important issue that we all need to support. During the discussion of this issue, the question will come up of whether to repay also the money that PERA would have made on that $225M. How that will come out is not clear at this point, but what is clear is that neither $225M nor $225M + earnings will be more than a token repayment of the billions of dollars PERA lost during the 2000s and 2010s when the Legislature failed to make their actuarily required contribution. This failure was a major cause of PERA’s shortfall that caused the dramatic 2-stage decrease in PERA’s cost of living increase. If we hope to get a meaningful cost of living increase restored before inflation puts us all on food stamps, the JBC needs to address this historic failure. PERA needs to keep reminding them of this fact.

  5. Pete Nichols says:

    Between inflation and COOERA health care cost increases I wonder how much longer I will even have to worry about PERA’s stance on the issues. That 3% annual increase I was promised never materialized and my PERA pension just looks like it will evaporate in the next decade.

    • Glenn says:

      Yes all Colorado retirees are going to be in bad shape financially in the near future. A year or two years ago I wrote on the Pera site that retirees in the future may to have to live off dog food. Now it appears in the future we may not even be able to afford to do that. It is sad when you enter into an agreement and one side fails to fulfill what they promised.

  6. Paul Von Riesemann says:

    Has there been any discussion on using state funding to offset PERA retirees medical insurance premiums for those who are not yet eligible for Medicare. It seems a lot of potential retirees put off their retirement solely on the cost of healthcare.

  7. Gayle Craun says:

    I am so tired of hearing complaints about the terrible financial picture for PERA retirees. I retired 20+ years ago after 31+ years of service with the State, earned annual income less than $40,000 and now, thankfully and gratefully, receive more in retirement than I ever did working. There is little doubt that I am on the lower echelon for PERA retirees (after all, I was only a secretary/admin asst) and manage to live within my means on my retirement benefit. Yes, there has been a shortfall in State contributions for quite some time, but in case you haven’t noticed, we retirees receive our annuity at the end of every month, without fail. I wish PERA retirees who think they are getting the short end of the stick would stop whining, learn to live within your means, and be grateful that you could actually retire. Look around…there are millions of people who would give anything to have what you have. I’m tired of ‘oh woe is me’!! Give it up, people.

    • Diane Marston says:

      Gayle, since you retired 20+ years ago you are among the fortunate who have it good. Timing is everything. I only started teaching when you were retiring. I taught for close to 10 years before I was paid more than $40,000 a year. TABOR became law in the mid 90s, which is when I started my teaching licensure program. It significantly reduced the amount of $ the state gave to education. My salary when I retired from my job in a rural district was $50,000. That’s with a master’s degree + 15 add’l credit hours. And the state underfunded PERA during the recession years starting in 2009 with the promise to repay what they owed once they were financially able. I really don’t know if any of that $ was repaid. Now add to that the $ that the state withheld from PERA in 2020 due to the pandemic and you have several years of underfunding. We don’t get regular cost of living increases (like you did for 17+ years of your retirement) because of this. Throw in the fact that we couldn’t pay into social security for all the years of our education career. Then top it off with the WEP and YES!!! we have plenty of reason to complain. PLEASE don’t tell your fellow retirees to live within their means. We do!! But our means are pathetic!

    • Paula Thorpe says:

      There are so many things wrong with this comment! So in your position of 20 years, how much debt did you accrue from college tuition? How many nights and weekends did you work to do what needed to be done in the classroom? I would say that as educators we DID learn to live within our means and still do, however many of us retired with a promised 3% raise that was taken from us. When I was working I guarantee you that no one “would give anything to have what I have”. No, for the level of education I have and the hours worked they were making much more than me. As far as summers off I worked every summer, paid into Social Security, still continue to work and pay in although my benefit will be significantly reduced due to WEP.

      I fulfilled my contract to the state with 30 years of service yet within 2 years of retirement they broke their contract to me. I am grateful for my monthly check but fully believe I earned every penny of it. I didn’t make the rules, PERA did and it is perfectly justifiable to be unhappy that they didn’t follow through. Had I known this was possible I would not have retired when I did.

      I do not think you are lower echelon…we were all important in the roles we played and I think you also deserve what you were promised based on your retiring salary. Your complacency keeps people out of education as a career.

    • Pete Nichols says:

      Nice you got what you were promised-many of us didn’t. That isn’t whining, it’s fact. Don’t comment on issues you were not a part of because you don’t understand that many of us were promised one thing that PERA then took away.

    • Fred Boettcher says:

      Well that means you got 16 more years of the “promised” cola than I did. I’ve got every right to complain about pera’s broken promises.

  8. Michael Macy says:

    I would love to be able to collect my social security that I have earned. If I was a retired veteran I could collect my VA benefits and my Pera. As of now I am penalized because I receive Pera Benefits. I am being ripped off!!

  9. Charl Hill says:

    Is there any organized committee or group actively engaged in getting the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) revised?

    • Star says:

      An in-depth study of the constitution and journals written by our founding fathers reveals legal/constitutional methods of purging our government from reckless politicians who do not represent the people whom they are put in place to protect. How about remembering the phrase “taxation without representation” in the Revolutionary War era and “never again”! Seems like a much more complex and devious sort of monarchy has developed these days as the main populace sinks slowly into poverty, can we say by design. History speaks to what happens next. It does repeat itself. All we have to do is nothing and point our finger at the other guy.

  10. Cara Meyers says:

    Sick of the sjw and the bs climate change as well. This state does not get and average of over 16” of rain on a good year. Never has.Very sorry what happened to the folks up north with the fires but divesting of hydrocarbons will not stop fires or drought. This is the west and high altitude desert , plains and the headwaters are dependent on snowpack and our water gets sent to other states to fulfill federal compacts. We have fires and blizzards out in the rural areas but no one cares unless its a big population area( other than the people that live there and they just roll up their sleeves and deal with it). With that said i agree with the folks above who know divesting of traditional energy sources is an ill educated ideology and also with those of us who paid 20 years into the federal social security system and will kiss that hard earned tax dollars good bye because the feds have mismanaged the social security funds and want to hide behind “WEP” and “GPO”. I have written congressmen, senators the finance committee etc. they are too busy spending money the country doesn’t have on their global aspirations. They no longer care about the American citizen that they are supposed to beholding to. Sad but yes if we ever find a decent group to get a petition going to bring to someone who cares in Washington i will be glad to sign the petition. And I pray that PERA will be continue to be managed properly so that when i do retire that at least will be there for me to get by on.

    • Star says:

      An in-depth study of the constitution and journals written by our founding fathers reveals legal/constitutional methods of purging our government from reckless politicians who do not represent the people whom they are put in place to protect. How about remembering the phrase “taxation without representation” in the Revolutionary War era and “never again”! Seems like a much more complex and devious sort of monarchy has developed these days as the main populace sinks slowly into poverty, can we say by design. History speaks to what happens next. It does repeat itself. All we have to do is nothing and point our finger at the other guy.

  11. Mary Ferbrache says:

    It is laughable that PERA is not getting behind HR82 which would eliminate WEP and GPO. When I called to see if PERA was going to take some action, their response was that it is so expensive that it will never pass. Well, it will never pass if we don’t get support!! There are currently 246 cosponsors of the bill. We need to get to 290! We only have 4 representatives from Colorado who have signed up.

    I find it interesting that when PERA needs legislation passed that allows them freedom on how to invest their money (which I totally understand and support) they do email blasts to participants with canned emails for people to send to their representatives so that the bill gets passed or denied. BUT when it comes to doing something that affects their members’ bottom line . . . .crickets! They should be ashamed!!! We should have full representation from Colorado on this legislation!!!

  12. Pixel Chi says:

    The climate change scam is political science not natural science. The only thing changing today is the political climate of Washington D.C. and that, sorry to say, is not good does need decarbonized.

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